Queensland's premier has annointed Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow to run in the seat vacated by Bill Byrne, setting the scene for a factional showdown against former Labor minister Robert Schwarten.
Agriculture Minister Mr Byrne last week announced he is battling a life-threatening medical condition and won't recontest the seat of Rockhampton at the next state election.
Mr Schwarten, who held the seat from 1995 to 2012, on Friday said he might return to politics, and would win his former seat, but believes teacher Dan Coxen from his Unity faction is the better man for the job.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has however thrown her support behind Mr Schwarten's factional foe, local mayor Margaret Strelow.
"I think Margaret Strelow would make an outstanding candidate to run in the seat of Rockhampton," said Ms Palaszczuk, who like Ms Strelow is from the Right faction.
"She has been a strong voice for Rockhampton; she has been an excellent mayor and if she chooses to step up and run for that seat she would have my blessing."
Mr Coxen has belonged to a Rockhampton branch for three months and would be preselected if he ran unopposed, but if Ms Strelow enters the race, he could be excluded, despite being a party member for eight years.
Party rules state aspiring candidates must have been members of a local branch for at least six months.
Mr Schwarten says it would be hypocritical to apply the rule to Mr Coxen as he had seen it ignored "more than a dozen times" in his 48 years in the party, including when Dr Anthony Lynham was shaping up to run in the Brisbane seat of Stafford.
"They're clearly using the mayor as a 'stalking' horse," he told AAP.
"They're hypocrites. It's just a bit of raw, stupid, factional bastardry."
If the factional stoush erupts, Mr Schwarten, a Unity powerbroker who admitted his return was "not the preferred option," rates his chances.
"I know I can win the seat," the former Beattie and Bligh government works and housing minister said.
The Labor Unity faction has held the seat of Rockhampton since the 1970s.
Comment has been sought from Ms Strelow, who is yet to confirm her intentions.